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The Triumph of Democracy?

The Triumph of Democracy?

"Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." So said Winston Churchill in November 1947, a time when Soviet Communism was beginning to offer the world a new alternative.


What a bad week to test this idea.

In the United States: A dispute between Donald Trump and the Democratic leadership in Congress over the president's promised border wall has forced a shutdown of parts of the federal government, leaving 800,000 public sector workers without salaries for the past 28 days. It's now the longest shutdown in US history.

But despite the well-publicized problems the shutdown has created, Americans themselves aren't demanding compromise. A Pew Research poll published this week found that 72 percent of self-described Republicans say Trump should not sign legislation to end this standoff until Democrats provide funding for the wall, and 88 percent of Democrats say he shouldn't get a dime for this project. The shutdown grinds on, and the unpopular president and even more unpopular Congress refuse to budge.

Some of Trump's supporters say he is the target of partisan attacks by so-called Deep State agents within ferrel law enforcement and the bureaucracy. The president has described the media as the "enemy of the people," and Trump felt compelled this week to publicly deny that he's a Russian agent.

This is not a good moment to claim that American democracy is the envy of the world. And President Trump may well be refused the highest-profile platform on which to do just that – with news this week that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is planning to delay the State of the Union address until the government shutdown is brought to a close.

In Britain: The House of Commons voted this week to reject Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan. The defeat came by the widest margin that institution has seen in 95 years. An opposition-led bid to force early elections failed, and the government remains in place.

In short, Britons voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, but it's possible there is no single Brexit plan that can gain majority support from parliament. Nor is there any guarantee that a second Brexit referendum would produce a different result than the first.

Thus, on the single most important question the United Kingdom has faced in many decades, democracy has led the nation into an angry stalemate. Citizens of that country are no closer to resolution than they were the day after the referendum, and they're left to doubt whether their elected leaders can accomplish anything.

The bigger picture: For the past several years, voters in some of the world's wealthiest democracies have used elections to deliver a clear message: "Our government is not meeting our needs." But the dysfunction on display this week in the United States and United Kingdom have reached new heights of absurdity.

A century after the rise and destruction of Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, Greenwood Rising is turning the site of a tragedy into a vibrant community hub, supported by a $1 million grant from Bank of America.

Greenwood, or Black Wall Street, was a thriving community of Black-owned businesses until the race-fueled massacre of 1921 that killed hundreds of Black residents and wiped out the neighborhood's homes and businesses. Nearing the 100th anniversary of this tragedy, focused activity in the neighborhood—including a history center—is bringing to life the spirit of Black Wall Street.

The most ambitious global vaccination drive in history is in motion. Over the past three months, more than 213 million COVID-19 shots have been administered across 95 countries, and the vaccination rate is slowly increasing. At the current rate, around 6.11 million doses are being administered daily.

It's a rare bit of hopeful news after 15 months of collective misery. So where do things stand at the moment, and what's keeping the world from getting to herd immunity faster?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With protests growing, where does that leave the Myanmar coup?

Well, certainly no feeling on the part of the military that they need to back down under either domestic or international pressure. There's been relatively limited violence, thankfully so far. A few protesters have been killed. They've used tear gas, they've used water cannons, but much less of a crackdown than certainly they're capable of or that we've seen from the Myanmar military historically. That, of course, gives the protesters on the ground more incentive to think that they have success, and they can continue.

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Reducing carbon emissions is good for the planet and good for your lungs, but there's one group of countries that might not be so keen on green: those that rely heavily on oil and gas exports to run their economies. As the rest of the world gets closer to "Net Zero" in the coming decades, these petrostates will be in big trouble unless they diversify their economies — fast. So, how vulnerable are the world's top oil and gas producers to a low-carbon future? We look at how the treasuries of the 20 most hydrocarbon-dependent nations will fare over the next two decades under what the Carbon Tracker Initiative refers to as a scenario in which global demand for oil and gas will be much lower than today.

US to release Khashoggi report: The Biden administration's intel chief is expected to release on Thursday a report on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist — and US resident — Jamal Khashoggi. In line with previously reported findings, the assessment will say that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the plot to kill and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Aside from a sprinkling of new details, we don't expect much from the report itself, but we are keen to see how it shapes US-Saudi relations under Joe Biden, who has promised to take a harder line with Riyadh over human rights and security issues than his predecessor did. Part of that new approach is that the US president will no longer speak directly to the Crown Prince himself as Trump did — from now on, only his dad, King Salman, gets calls from the White House.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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